- New York City Council Member Ben Kallos has proposed legislation that would require construction workers to be paid the prevailing wage for projects subsidized by the city.
- Construction contractors must already pay the prevailing wage when they have a direct contract with the city, but Kallos’ measure would expand this requirement to projects that receive government funds in the minimum amount of $1 million, are 100,000 square feet or more in size or, if residential in nature, have more than 50 units in a building. The new regulation would also provide for classroom and on-the-job training through apprenticeships and require developers to disclose information like the source of all subsidies, how many jobs they create, all the names of contractors and owners and proof of insurance for all parties.
- The proposal also includes monitoring and reporting by city agencies and the comptroller; fines of $10,000 per day for noncompliance; the potential for withdrawal of financial assistance to the developer; whistleblower protections and a right of private action for prevailing wages. “Any project that receives taxpayer dollars must pay a prevailing wage, invest in workers with training and apprenticeship and provide protection for workers' rights,” said Kallos, who is also an attorney for union labor. “Paying construction workers minimum wage on affordable housing projects is only making our city’s housing crisis worse. Moreover, no one should die in a construction accident that could have been prevented with proper training."
The Empire State Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors issued a statement Wednesday after Kallos introduced the legislation. In it, the industry group claims that prevailing wage increases the cost of construction projects by 25% and that, if enacted into law, Kallos’ measure would "line the pockets of his union donors” at the expense of “overtaxed” residents and would put a hold on affordable housing projects, hospitals, places of worship and other not-for-profits.
Kallos’ measure also revisits the issue of apprenticeships, a piece of legislation that the New York City Council scuttled during the process to finalize a new set of safety rules passed last year. Originally, all construction workers would have had to undergo 59 hours of safety training and complete an apprenticeship program, but the requirement was reduced to just 40 hours of training.
At the time, contractors in the city’s growing nonunion construction industry complained that unions sponsored almost 50% of apprenticeship programs in the city in order to boost their membership and that the training was expensive and favored union workers.